Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Q&A with Meg Elison



Meg Elison is the author of the new novel Number One Fan. Her other books include The Book of the Unnamed Midwife.


Q: What inspired you to write Number One Fan, and how did you create your character Eli Grey?


A: I got into a rideshare one night, very drunk in San Francisco. I blacked out somewhere between the Bay Bridge and my apartment, only waking up when the driver shook me. I stumbled to my door and put the key in and it hit me: I could have woken up anywhere.


I started thinking about what it would be like if someone recognized a famous author well enough to trap them. I thought about what that person might want. The idea began to take shape, and then I put Eli in it.


I wanted someone I could relate to: someone who knows that publishing doesn't make everything perfect and someone who is kind of a loner dirtbag, too. She's relatable, but she's not always the best person. Not a perfect victim. That made for some intricate drama. 


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I thought it would end much worse! My tendency is for very unhappy endings, and some of my earliest readers told me I should ease up a little. In the end, they were right. 


Q: What do you think the novel says about fandom and creativity?


A: I love fandom and I grew up reading and writing fan fiction. I think creativity occupies a multivarious space in people's lives, and it's no good to judge how someone expresses their interests and artistic joy.


At the same time, the question of who owns a story is a complicated one. I wanted to look at how muddy it can get: plagiarism, fanfic, and the way that an audience is always a source of pressure can really change art. We're seeing that now, and seeing how it plays out for both individuals and for our culture. 


Q: The book is described as “a thrilling horror novel.” What do you think of that description?


A: Horror is a strange genre to fit into. Some people think that only supernatural stories are really horror, but the slasher, the cannibal, the serial killer are all real-life horror stories. I think this book will appeal to thriller fans, but it might shock them. I think it will appeal to horror fans, but they won't be able to tell themselves it's just pretend. I'm here to scare everybody. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm working on another horror novel about the scariest people on earth: dentists. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My Instagram is fire. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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